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December 19, 2004
Killing Them With Kindness

Nelson Mandela has created a tradition for South African Christmases where he and his wife throw a large party and hand out gifts to any children who attend -- usually the poor. Unfortunately, South Africa has no shortage of poverty, as Eastern Cape police discovered:

A children's Christmas party given by former South African President Nelson Mandela was thrown into chaos after thousands turned up for free gifts.

Police fought to hold back up to 75,000 children and adults attempting to get into the venue in Mr Mandela's home village of Qunu, Eastern Cape.

Police said they were unprepared for the massive surge. No-one was injured.

What did Mandela have to say to this tidal wave of children descending upon his party? Not much, considering he absented himself from the proceedings, although for perfectly understandable reasons: his son is critically ill and he's staying at his bedside. The rational action would have been to cancel the party, or at least postpone it.

It could have been worse; no one was injured, but before anyone could get killed the party had to be postponed. Also, a number of children collapsed from the heat and lack of food, and some of them wound up abandoned -- including a four-month-old child.

The BBC report finishes with a moment of irony:

Mr Mandela and his wife have been actively involved in promoting the welfare of children for many years.

They have, and good for them; but this annual party looks a lot like a political stunt, and a potentially deadly one. After children had to be hospitalized in 2002 for injuries due to trampling, someone should have pulled the plug on this tradition. There are other ways to ensure that poor African children get gifts, even if it makes it more difficult for elderly African statesmen to get headlines.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 19, 2004 7:33 PM

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